“Of course, I remembered one-lane tunnels are part of the exciting experience of driving in the Faroe Islands. It came to my mind in the split second the first one was standing in front of me.
The breaks squeak when I hit the pedal right at the mouth of the tunnel to Hvalba. Quicker than ever I reverse to the nearest lay-by before any cars drive out. A couple of deep breaths help me to build enough courage for the unknown, the pitch-black hole that seems endless. I have no choice but to dive in; our accommodation for the following night is on the other side of the tunnel, and driving in the Faroe Islands doesn’t leave much room for route options.”
This time was different
In a normal situation, when I’m road tripping with Daniel, I’m the lucky one who doesn’t need to grab the wheel once during the trip. My main tasks are reading the map, directing us to the correct place and making sure no risk factors are lurking around the corner. With these conditions, Daniel is willing to do the driving while I concentrate on taking photos and admiring the landscapes (besides the three other things mentioned above).
I think it’s only fair. After all, I’m the one who takes care of all the booking, planning, fact-checking and preparing for the worst (which quite often happens on my trips, as you might already know).
This time was different. In the Faroe Islands, I was the one doing all the driving while my talented and like-minded friend Heidi from Maailman äärellä blog was taking photos – of which some decorate this post alongside with mine.
This time it was me who sat behind the wheel, time after time, and chased the twirly mountain roads towards the unknown. This time it was me who got frustrated every time the navigator didn’t have a clue where we are or which turning to take. This time it was me saying no to a glass of wine (which usually never happens) because the road was calling.
Still, the main reason why this time was so different was the fact that the Faroe Islands was so different.
How to rent a car in the Faroe Islands – at an affordable price?
I usually book my trips at the last minute, but not this time. We had purchased our flights to the Faroe Islands months in advance. That doesn’t mean everything was sorted out a couple of weeks before the trip, oh no. We were still missing a rental car.
As a budget-conscious traveller, I was horrified about the outcome of this trip. I had already paid for Airbnb accommodation more than I ever pay for hotels, and it seemed like there were no cars available for less than 600 euros for 6 days. Besides using several rental car comparison sites, I contacted many local companies offering car rental services as a side business.
I’m happy I did it. Because this is how I found Hotel Streym, a small hotel in the Faroese capital Tórshavn that offered us a rental car in the middle of the high season for 395 DKK per day. I was able to book the vehicle conveniently by email, and there was no need for retainers. The rent included full insurance, additional driver and free mileage. We only had to pay for the airport toll (300 DKK) and fees for undersea tunnels on top (and for the fuel, of course).
The total cost of our 6-day car rental
We only had to take one return journey through one of the two undersea tunnels in the Faroe Islands. Including this and the airport toll, renting a car in the Faroe Islands cost us 378 euros (2,770 DKK) in total. During 500 km of twisty and twirly mountain roads, our small and practical Ford Ka Plus used 50 euros worth of fuel.
Upon our arrival, the car was already waiting for us at the airport with doors open and the key hidden under the carpet. That’s also how we left it at the airport on our last day. There wasn’t much stress about paying for the car, either. All we had to do was to pop into the hotel at some point during our trip to take care of the car rental.
Yep, it’s all so different in the Faroe Islands.
The unwritten rules of driving in the Faroe Islands
I feel it would be wrong to talk about ‘traffic rules’ when talking about the rules of the road in the Faroes. Even in the high season, these scenic routes remain empty of cars. The only traffic lights stand in the capital Tórshavn, and there are only three of them, I believe.
Despite the lack of traffic and lights, a few unwritten rules are to keep in mind when driving in the Faroes. Speed limits, for instance, because they don’t bother to inform about them with signs.
Only two rules apply. Anyone can remember two rules without signs, right?
Rule 1: the speed limit in urban areas is 50 km/h unless stated otherwise.
Rule 2: the speed limit outside urban areas is 80 km/h.
Simple as that. Instead of speed limits, you’re supposed to keep an eye on the signs showing where urban areas begin and end – if even that. In these northern paradise islands where green-glowing mountain valleys continue as far as the eye can see, you don’t need signs for spotting the villages.
The speed limit in the Faroese tunnels is as elsewhere outside urban areas. They shall drive 80 km per hour through a dreaded pitch-black one-lane tunnel who dare.
Oh yes, those tunnels. They are a bit different in the Faroe Islands.
Driving in the tunnels of the Faroe Island (and paying for it)
Of course, I remembered one-lane tunnels are part of the exciting experience of driving in the Faroe Islands. It came to my mind in the split second the first one was standing in front of me.
The breaks squeak when I hit the pedal right at the mouth of the tunnel to Hvalba. Quicker than ever I reverse to the nearest lay-by before any cars drive out. A couple of deep breaths help me to build enough courage for the unknown, the pitch-black hole that seems endless. I have no choice but to dive in; our accommodation for the following night is on the other side of the tunnel, and driving in the Faroe Islands doesn’t leave much room for route options.
I might be frightening you a bit for nothing; I admit that. These black holes called one-lane tunnels rarely exist in the Faroes anymore. New tunnels are under construction, and the old ones are getting brand new lights. If (and hopefully when) I one day cruise along these scenic roads, the tunnel experience will be much different from my first ones.
Painting dreadful pictures or not, the first time driving through the Hvalba tunnel can be exciting, even scary. Especially when you believe you’re not allowed to use long range lights (you are) and you’ve forgotten to turn on proper driving lights (you shouldn’t). That’s how you miss the M-signs pointing the places where you’re supposed to stop to let the others go.
Let alone when the woman behind the wheel doesn’t realise to check who has the right of way before diving into the narrow black hole.
Nope, it wasn’t me. The one with the right of way, to be clear.
The plan in the Faroe Islands is to build more undersea tunnels to make driving from island to island much more effortless. At the moment, Faroe Islands have two subsea tunnels that are also toll roads. At least one of them you have to take if you want to exit the airport island Vágar. The other toll tunnel combines the islands of Borðoy and Eysturoy a bit further east.
For a passenger car, the return journey through either undersea tunnel is 100 DKK (approximately 13 €), and it’s due to pay within three days after driving through. The cameras will register cars going from Vágar to the island of Streymoy and when driving from Klaksvik to Leirvík. If for any reason you need to get through the tunnel only once and in the opposite direction, you don’t need to pay a dime.
Some car rental companies collect the tunnel fees, and some might even include it in the price. If neither of these options applies to you, you can pay the toll in any of the gas stations listed here.
Faroe Island hopping with and without a car
Strandfaraskip Landsins (SSL) is your home page for finding information, timetables and prices for public transport in the Faroe Islands. During our 6-day road trip, we didn’t need to use buses, but we did take ourselves and our car from Tórshavn to the island of Suðuroy by Smyril the car ferry.
The main thing you need to do to travel by a Faroese ferry is to make your way to the ferry harbour in time – in Tórshavn, preferably 45 minutes before the take-off. Everything else flows almost by itself. You don’t need to purchase your ticket in advance. Just drive into the queue and follow the others. On the ferry to Suðuroy, you’re only due to enjoying the journey. You pay for your tickets when you’re coming back to Tórshavn.
Smyril hosts a cantine-kind-of restaurant. It doesn’t serve gourmet food, but at least you can get rid of your hunger at a very affordable price. Before you ask, yes, there is wifi on board, but I’d suggest you spend the 2-hour ferry trip by admiring the stunning views rather than your nose glued to the screen of your phone.
In the Faroes, island hopping by helicopter is a must-do, especially if you’ve never been on a helicopter ride before. It’s not as expensive as you might think; the prices for a one-way ticket vary from 11 to 50 euros depending on from where to where you want to go. The helicopter transport in the Faroe Islands is run by Atlantic Airways.
A few more tips for a Faroese road trip
What else would you like to know about driving in the Faroe Islands? Let me guess: the condition of the roads, the one-lane routes, the sheep, navigating, the most scenic routes and the distances, right? Let’s dig in!
The roads on the islands are in good condition, excluding a very few exceptions. Even so, you need to pay attention to driving in steep, curly and often narrow roads. Besides the scary one-lane tunnels, you’re quite likely to end up on one-lane roads. They have plenty of lay-bys for letting the oncoming vehicles go. Do not keep these lay-bys occupied for photographing, not even if the views are to die for. By doing so, you’ll manage to cause a traffic jam even in the Faroe Islands, believe it or not.
The vehicle to stop is always the one driving downhill, no matter which side of the road the lay-by lies.
Approximately 70,000 sheep live freely in the valleys and mountains of the Faroe Islands. At least a few of them will step on your way more than once during your road trip. I’m not sure how useful it is to warn about the sheep on the road. After road tripping in so many countries, I start to feel Finland is the only one in the world where sheep are pasturing inside electric fences with no possibility to run on the roads. That’s why warning about them feels so stupid, too.
But I believe it’s not. There is always someone who hasn’t been driving in such a country before.
Uploading an offline map on your phone is always a good idea. We Europeans might stumble into a little trap called EU roaming; as the Faroe Islands isn’t a member of the European Union, it’s very likely that data roaming in the Faroes isn’t included in your phone contract. Write this down, as it might become expensive if you don’t.
Even if offline maps are easy and useful, I’ll always remain as a supporter of traditional maps. You can get a roadmap for the Faroe Islands at the airport as well as in any tourist info, hotel or even some Airbnb’s, and I suggest you grab it. The tunnels and the scenic roads are both well marked on these maps (even if every road in the Faroes feels like a scenic drive).
There aren’t too many roads in the Faroe Islands, to begin with. Wherever you go in the Faroes, you need to come back. Most often you only have one route option. In other cases, you have two: the main road and the scenic road. Play your options well.
These scenic routes, marked on the map and signposted with green signs, are the old main roads of the islands. Despite their partly poor condition and the horseshoe-shaped corners, the locals would know how to drive them with closed eyes. I hope they won’t.
Finally, here comes my last tip for driving in the Faroe Islands: don’t hit the road in a rush. You’d be surprised how much more time the Faroese kilometres take compared, for instance, to Finnish ones. Driving 25 km in the Faroe Islands can easily take 45 minutes, even without photography breaks.
And it’s perfectly fine. Only an insane would want to speed through these northern paradise islands with no time for breathing in the unspeakable beauty of the Faroe Islands.